APR 25, 2019 9:00 AM PDT

Keynote Presentation: The Next Pandemic

  • Professor of Epidemiology, Director, Infectious Disease Epidemiology Certificate, Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health
      Stephen S. Morse, Ph.D., is Professor of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, where he also serves as Director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology certificate and as chair of the Columbia University Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). He was founding Director of the CDC-funded "Center for Public Health Preparedness" (2000-2005). Before coming to Columbia, Dr. Morse was Assistant Professor (virology) in The Rockefeller University (1985-1995), and Program Manager for Biodefense at DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) from 1995 to 2000. He was appointed in 2014 to the U.S. government's National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB). His research interests focus on infectious disease surveillance, and the epidemiology and assessment of emerging infectious diseases, including influenza. He was Chair of the NIH "Conference on Emerging Viruses" (1989), for which he originated the concept of emerging viruses/infections, was founding chair of ProMED (the Program to Monitor Emerging Diseases, best known for originating outbreak reporting on the Internet in 1994); and served on the Institute of Medicine (now National Academy of Medicine) Committee on Emerging Microbial Threats to Health (1990-1992), and chaired its Virology Task Force. His book Emerging Viruses (Oxford University Press, 1993) was selected by American Scientist as one of "The Top 100 Science Books of the [20th] Century". He was a founding member of the National Academies' "Forum on Emerging Infections" (later renamed the "Forum on Microbial Threats"), a founding section editor of the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, former Editor-in-Chief of the Pasteur Institute's virology journal, and global co-Director of PREDICT (a USAID project to strengthen global capacity for surveillance and detection of new infectious disease threats) from 2009 to 2014. He is currently an Associate Editor of Disaster Medicine & Public Health Preparedness, and serves on the Editorial Board of several journals, including Health Security and Viral Immunology. He also serves on committees at the National Academies of Sciences and the World Health Organization (WHO), including the WHO Expert Group on Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Planning in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Academy of Microbiology, the American College of Epidemiology, the New York Academy of Medicine, the New York Academy of Sciences (and was Chair of its Microbiology Section), and other professional societies, and is a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He received his Ph.D. (in microbiology) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


    “Emerging infections” are those that appear suddenly or are rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range (e.g., HIV/AIDS, Ebola, SARS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome [MERS], H5N1 avian influenza, pandemic influenza, Zika).  Most are pathogens from other species that acquire opportunities to come in contact with humans and spread (often as a result of such factors as changes in ecology and land use, increasing urbanization, and human movement).  A pandemic is an epidemic that spreads to cover a broad geographic range.  Despite progress in identifying the underlying factors (or “drivers”) and improvements in early warning, no emerging infection or pandemic to date has been correctly predicted before its appearance in humans.  In two of the most recent epidemics, Ebola in West Africa and Zika in the Americas, the first outbreaks were initially discounted.  Before the recent reports of neurological effects, Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that came to Brazil from the Pacific Islands only two years ago and had been circulating in Africa far longer, was considered a mild disease and little cause for concern.  By contrast, Ebola's lethality has been legendary since its first identification in 1976, but an epidemic with over 11,000 fatalities seemed inconceivable.  Such surprises demonstrate that population density, and host social and biological factors, likely play as important a role in the development of pandemics as characteristics of the pathogen, and should serve to warn against complacency.  Our current approach is reactive.  Although we have the capability to develop more effective systems to anticipate and prevent emerging infections and pandemics, much more needs to be done.  Many effective public health measures, such as immunization and mosquito control, often become victims of their own success and are not sustained.  As urbanization increases worldwide, effective and sustainable early warning and response remain ever more essential.

    Learning Objectives:

    1. Define and distinguish an emerging infection and a pandemic
    2. Assess probable future pandemic risks and how they might be prevented

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    Keynote Presentation: The Next Pandemic


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